Friday, August 31, 2012



by Gary James & Salvatore I know of three methods for making trees - plaster and wire, air-drying clay, and natural twigs. I was introduced to a fourth - sports socks and PVA glue (!) by Salvatore. These trees are plaster and wire construction on the Lizardman temple.


  1. Thick wire for plaster and wire and air-drying clay trees (I use old metal coathangers).
  2. Plaster of Paris and rags/bandages for plaster and wire trees
  3. Air-drying clay for clay trees
  4. Twigs for twig trees(!)
  5. Paper and PVA glue for the leaves


My leaves are all made in the same way. I cut a piece of paper that is twice the size of the finished leaf I require. I paint PVA glue on it and then fold it over, sandwiching the wire or twig 'branch' between the paper. When dry cut the paper into the required leaf shape and paint. For clay trees you can use single layer plastic leaves instead. I use the thin plastic from supermarket milk bottles. Push the stalks into the clay tree trunk.
For clay and plaster tree types begin by making a skeleton tree from thick wire. Twist the wire together (say, three strands for a three branch tree) using a couple of pairs of pliers, or one pair and a vice (no, Slaanesh players, not that kind of vice). Twist more branches into the top if you wish. Leave 'roots' at the bottom to stab into your base and support the tree.
For clay trees, cover the wire with air drying clay and make a suitable pattern in the surface.
Jungle terrain made from clay trees and plastic plantsFor plaster trees, cover the wire frame with strips of rag soaked in plaster of paris make up 50:50 water/plaster. Paint more plaster onto the rags as it starts to set and goes thick. When dry seal the plaster with watered-down PVA glue.
Paint the trees in a suitable colour! Try Bestial Brown dry brushed with light brown, or light brown washed with Chestnut or brown wash.
For twig trees choose twigs with a good open structure. Either turn them upside down and use the twigs as big ariel roots for jungle trees, with paper or plastic leaves on the top connected by wire, or use them the right way up and flock the branches or use snipped up sponge to get a denser, fuller foliage.

Jaffe trees by Salvatore

The tree on the left is one of Salvatore's Jaffe trees, made from black sports socks with the loopy side outermost. This must be the ultimate in junk-based modelling materials! Hey, if you find a use for athletic supports, Salvatore, we don't want to hear about it, OK :-).
Salvatore explains: I start with solid copper wire for the frame (the same gauge used for home wiring). I saved some lengths of copper wire from an electrical job my father and I did last year for the house. I prefer copper over coat-hanger wire because it is much easier to bend. Once I have shaped the frame to my liking, I soak thin strips of sock material in watered-down PVA. Then I wrap the strips around the wire frame fairly tightly, but not so tight that the glue solution is wringed out. Make sure that the rough side of the material is on the outside. When the tree has fully dried (allow two days), I glue the tree to a base (cardboard, in this case).
I use air-dry DAS modelling clay to add slope to the ground around the aerial roots. The advantage to using black socks is that the tree doesn't need a black undercoat of paint for the dry brushing stage.

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